A funny thing happens on the way to 50 and beyond: Your body doesn’t respond to exercise as it did earlier in your life. Fatigue, muscle and joint aches and increased injuries seem to happen with greater frequency.
Unfortunately, it’s not your imagination. It happens to the best of us as a natural consequence of aging. In fact, some of the “standard” fitness rules no longer apply, at least not in the same way as they did in your 30s and even 40s. Here’s how the rules change after 50 and how to stay injury-free as you age.
Old rule: Stretch a few days a week
New rule: Stretch after every workout, and then some
Stretching is no longer an option after 50. Staying flexible becomes more important as you age, says Michele Olson, adjunct professor of exercise science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala.
“Flexibility, because it’s related to the collagenous tendons, which is a part of our lean body mass, starts to decrease,” she says. “Since our tendons connect our muscles to our bones, the perfect time to stretch is after your weight training sessions.”
Warming up before a workout increases circulation, raises heart rate and body temperature, prepares muscles for exercise and increases joint range of motion. Here at fitness in time we give you a set of warm up and cool down stretches to do for every workout.
Old rule: Focus on cardio
New rule: Resistance training takes center stage
Bone density and muscle mass drops rapidly after 50, says Olson, making resistance training a crucial part of a complete exercise program. In addition to the link between muscle mass and metabolism — muscle burns more calories at rest than fat — increasing muscle and bone strength also prevents falls and fractures.
You still need cardio, of course, for reducing heart disease risk, which accelerates after 50, says Olson.
“And, as we increase lean mass — bones and muscle — the war against belly fat must also begin,” she says. Plus, a 2014 study shows a single 20-minute bout of weight training may enhance memory.
Old rule: Warming up is an option
New rule: Always include a thorough warm-up
Warming up before a workout increases circulation, raises heart rate and body temperature, prepares muscles for exercise and increases joint range of motion. Warm-ups are particularly beneficial after 50 to mediate some of the changes that occur with aging, mainly decreased tendon elasticity, says Kruse.
“It’s best to warm up with a combination of light cardio and light stretching, although the specifics can vary,” he says. Although it’s best to warm up the specific muscles you’re about to use, a general lower body warm-up such as a light treadmill workout will benefit all muscles, including upper body.
“It will benefit you no matter what your workout,” says Kruse.
Our programme at fitness in time focuses on doing a warm up then resistance training with a tiny bit of hit training (optional) ending with a cool down and stretch. Its the perfect balance for anyone over 50!